Open sea

Movie Review: 'Adrift'

The film is well made and admirable, if a bit of an ordeal to experience.

June 01, 2018 - 9:06 am

By Bill Wine

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It's the kind of terse title that begs the question: Is the name of this survival thriller also a confessional one-word review of itself?

Or, to put it another way, is "Adrift" adrift?

Answer: No, it's well made and essentially admirable, if a bit of an ordeal to experience.

Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin and Tami Oldham Ashcraft attend the premiere of 'Adrift' in Los Angeles, California.
Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin co-star in the true story of 23-year-old Tami Oldham and a-decade-or-so-older Richard Sharp, a young couple who meet, bond, and fall for one another, and then decide, in 1983, to take a break from the pleasure sailing that they've been doing on his 36-foot sailboad for the last six months.

Instead, they sign on to a freelance assignment sailing and transporting a 44-foot yacht, hoping to travel across the Pacific Ocean from Tahiti to San Diego — a 4,000-mile journey.

And why not? After all, love is certainly in the air: They love each other and they both love sailing.

Here's why: Because it turns out they're about to sail directly into one of the most catastrophic category-5 hurricanes of all time. And their dream job is about to turn into a nightmare.

During the storm, Hurricane Raymond, they must battle 40-foot waves and 140-knot winds. The boat capsizes, and Tami is knocked out. When she awakens, over a day later, the navigation and communication equipment is broken, the cabin is half-full of water, the masts are smashed, the sails are waterlogged, and Richard is nowhere to be found.

Tami is shocked, scared, and grief-stricken. But she's also stubborn and resilient and remarkably resourceful.

With no hope of a rescue of any sort, Tami is on her own, determined to save herself and the man she loves. And this will be her lot for 41 days, with only her "inner voice" for company — with perhaps something unexpected to be revealed for her and for us along the way.

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur ("Contraband," "The Deep," "2 Guns," "Everest," "The Oath") works from the script by debuting twin-brother screenwriters Aaron and Jordan Kandell and David Branson Smith that's based on the book by Tami Oldham Ashcraft and Susea McGearhart, "Red Sky in Mourning: The True Story of a Woman's Courage and Survival at Sea," which is a study in survival instinct and the power of love and the strength of hope.

What the film has going against it is are the bland, on-the-nose dialogue and only minimal chemistry between the leads in what is certainly, among other things, a love story.

But what works in its favor are the arresting visuals, the true-to-life action (including a convincing tropical storm) emerging from what we know must have been a rigorous shoot, and the individual appeal of Claflin and especially Woodley, who also served as a producer.

What the script tries to do is remind you of such thematically similar films as "All is Lost" (with Robert Redford) and "Cast Away" (with Tom Hanks) as you mull over the question, "What would I do in the same situation?"

For me, in a word: "Oy."

So we'll sail past 2-1/2 stars out of 4. The respectable if not buoyant "Adrift" celebrates inner strength rather than what we might call seawomanship.